Last month, we discussed the importance of cross-training, particularly at a time when so many offices are struggling with shortages of team members. The question is how to do this effectively.
The first thing I would suggest is make sure your team is involved in the process. Employees today do not respond well if they feel you are arbitrarily dictating new terms to their job description. Your best intentions could result in an accusation that you are changing the terms of employment. If the lawyers come calling, you will not be in for a fun time.
Involving the team from the start allows them to see how your plan will benefit them! So make that the focus. Emphasize the benefits of team members being able to cover for each other when one is on vacation. Get them excited about skill development and ask them what they are motivated to learn!
Make it about their career path as much as it is about ensuring efficient operations in your office.
Now you may still have to exercise some managerial discretion and recognize that logistics or other facets of your office prevent certain tasks from being assigned to certain people. But you can still discuss other options for allowing a team member to learn a task that might interest them while also ensuring the efficiency of your office.
It is about working together to make sure everyone gets as much as they can from the process.
Then you have to provide the training! Far too many offices fall short on properly training their team members to adequately perform their principal tasks, let alone the backup ones they are being “cross-trained” on. Too many dentists think they simply do not have the budget to provide training.
Yet lack of training is one of the greatest sources of frustrations many dental team members complain about. The truth is you cannot afford NOT to train properly. New technologies are popping up in dental offices all the time and your team needs proper training to be able to use them effectively. The good news is technology has also brought us more and more online options, which can make training more affordable and accessible than it ever was.
When you have worked out the issues of training and who will cross-train in what tasks, you need to formalize all of this in your policy manual. Not only is this vital for existing team members, having it addressed in a manual makes it easier to work into an onboarding program for any new members you hire.
Yes, I said the word “onboarding.” And while many of you may only want to hear this term when you go on their next cruise, it is imperative you be “on board” with onboarding! It is the key to ensuring continuity in your practice and that the lessons of training and cross-training are not lost.
Far too often, I hear from frustrated dentists who have invested in team training only to see team members take those new skills to a different office. This leaves many dentists thinking “Why bother investing in training…let alone cross-training!”
The reality is that team members will come and go. Even the best of teams will see turnover. This is a natural order that cannot be stopped and, perhaps sometimes, should even be encouraged.
However, proper onboarding ensures any training and cross-training you have provided becomes part of the overall training plan for new hires. Your investment in training will be protected because you have a system that passes those skills to any new team members you hire. The knowledge will not disappear with team members who move on.
So don’t be afraid to invest in improving your office efficiency through cross-training. You simply need to ensure your team members see it as a benefit for themselves and their careers while also ensuring any knowledge gained can be passed along in the face of inevitable turnover of team members.
Without such a plan – yes, your investment in training may well be wasted. So protect that investment by making training an essential part of what your office is all about.
About the Author
Shawn Peers is the President of DentalPeers. DentalPeers is one of Canada’s oldest, continuous operating buying groups exclusively for dentists.